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Potential 2020 NBA Draft targets for the Spurs: Tyrese Maxey

Another guard with high upside, but is he what the Spurs need?

Auburn v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Could a #DraftTwitter favorite find himself in a Spurs uniform next season?


Kentucky Wildcat Tyrese Maxey has all of the tools/measurements necessary to turn into a positive defender, starting with length and base strength and continuing with lateral mobility and recovery tools such as hip mobility. He has a solid base, and when in tandem with body control and balance, makes it tough to knock off his path (specifically at the rim). However, Maxey does not have the greatest burst/first step, and is just an average (maybe slightly above) vertical athlete.

  • Plus measurements for PG, below average for SG
  • Solid foundation in terms of strength (specifically in the lower body), but room to improve
  • Very fluid laterally: little wasted movements, quick feet, flexible hips allows him to start/stop, change directions with relative ease
  • Good, not great vertical athlete for position
  • Does not have elite burst
  • Excellent balance, body control for guard


Currently, Maxey is wired as a scorer. He can get to the rim at will in part due to his lower body strength, balance, and control, and finishes well with length and touch around the hoop (in addition to the aforementioned factors). At lower levels, he has shown the propensity to knock down jumpers at high clip, both from the mid range and three point line, but the shooting from deep did not translate at Kentucky. His lack of handle and burst currently makes it difficult for him to be efficient in isolation situations. Add in subpar playmaking that even in the most optimistic scenario still falls short of a lead playmaker, and Maxey seems penciled in as an off ball scoring option (either starting or coming off the bench).

If he develops as a shooter (a likely bet given the indicators below), Maxey should function as a high level off ball option with the ability to attack closeouts and create for himself. With Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, the Spurs have enough playmaking equity, but they are missing is a young prospect who can get buckets when the team needs it most. If Maxey is somehow able to make significant strides in that area of his game, I could see the fit, but it is unrealistic to expect that in Maxey range of reasonable outcomes.


  • Potential to be excellent finisher for guard (almost 56% around the rim)
  • Uses change of pace/speed moves to get past defenders, takes advantage of defense’s mistakes (Ex. Overaggressive closeout)

o Not going to blow by most guards, but can do so in mismatch situations

  • Uses strength, body control, balance to not only finish in traffic
  • Showed potential with runner/floater, important to have in the bag with limited burst (39% on runners this season according to Synergy, 64th percentile), indicates solid touch

o Definitely not contact averse, almost looks like he is seeking it out (sometimes leads to charges)

o Not easy to bump him off, protects the ball well + uses physical tools


  • No mechanical issues outside of low release point, compact + one motion shot
  • Much more comfortable shooting off the dribble than in off ball scenarios (high usage player in high school + AAU settings), seems to be much better shooter than percentages indicate

o 36.7% on dribble jumpers in the half court (53rd percentile)

o 25% on C&S jumpers in the half court (20th percentile)

  • Efficient as a mid range scorer, specifically on right side
  • Consistently excellent FT shooter
  • Makes a solid amount of pull up long twos
  • Shot a very high percentage on jump shots in high school and AAU
  • Should develop into diverse shot profile over time


  • Basic handle, gets the job done but nothing impressive
  • Mostly relies on strength, screen, or change of speed/pace move to get open

o Lacks horizontal shift, currently limits him in ISO situations

  • Erratic on multi step moves, seems to shy away from them generally
  • Left hand exists, but clearly not equal

On Ball (Pick and Roll, Isolation)

  • Rated excellent (86th percentile) in 97 possessions as a pick and roll ball handler

o Misleading due to lack of playmaking, tough to succeed when he rarely passes to the roller (almost always passing to shooters or just resetting if not scoring)

o Somewhat predictable in terms of how he will use the screen, not much variance

o If defender goes over the screen, Maxey often able to get man on his hip and essentially control him the rest of the way, often resulting in a foul call

o Efficient as a scorer, but not much variance

o Next step: turning his pull up 3 into a consistent weapon, specifically when defenders go under the screen; can leverage the threat of his shot to open up even more driving lanes at the next level once he starts making shots

  • Not very effective as an isolation scorer, especially with a guard on him

o Lacks handle + burst, when combined with low(er) shooting percentages, easy for defenses to currently contain his drive

Off Ball (Catch and Shoot, Movement Shooting, Cutting)

  • Seemed like Maxey was overthinking on some shots, looked much more comfortable in late clock situations where he had to shoot quickly
  • Should translate to a good C&S outlet who can attack closeouts once shot comes around
  • Run off a lot of mid range curls at Kentucky and seemed comfortable both shooting and taking 1 or 2 dribbles and then shooting a floater/runner
  • Was not used too much as a cutter, if shot develops like it is projected to, could use it as an option when defenders too tight

Passing/Decision Making

  • Currently poor in terms of distribution, play making for others

o Limited to basic reads, high chance of ending in turnover if Maxey tries to make advanced pass

o Also prone to not even seeing some basic reads

  • Solid decision maker when it comes to self creation, not so much when it comes to teammates
  • Shown flashes of playmaking both in youth levels and college, but overshadowed by number of missed reads and poor recognition
  • Playing next to (likely) jumbo primary initiator will take away passing responsibilities and allow him to focus on best strength: scoring


Defensively, Maxey fits like a glove with San Antonio. I don’t think he has the potential to be as good of an on ball defender as White or as disruptive as a team defender as Murray, but he can provide positive value in both mediums. As he would likely defend opposing lead guards, Maxey has the lateral quickness to not get beat off the dribble, the strength and agility to get through screens, and the length to potentially alter shots in a meaningful way. Moreover, he is active as a team defender. Maxey is in the right help position for the most part, and despite not really looking to make plays in the forms of takeaways, he often can be a deterrent via digs, stunts, or tags on the player with the ball (ala Kyle Lowry).

Imagine trying to score and having Derrick White and Tyrese Maxey guarding your best two scorers, Jakob Poetl defending the rim, and DeJounte Murray absolutely wreaking havoc as a help defender. Almost no matter who is that fifth defender, it will be tough for offenses to generate efficient scoring opportunities on a consistent basis against that unit and a welcome change from the poor defensive lineups that have been trotted out in recent years.

On Ball (Isolation, Pick and Roll PoA)

  • Lateral quickness, hip mobility, balance all help Maxey as a positive on ball defender

o Footwork about as good as it gets for a freshman guard (occasionally crosses his feet)

o Would like him to take better angles more consistently when beat, cutting off his drive and try to force a mid range J

o Almost always gives strong shot contest, but sometimes too deep into help and cannot get back on time

  • Effective guarding PnR ball handler

o Sometimes can get burned by jumping the screen, but for the most part does a good job chasing ball handler and getting skinny around pick

o Has enough strength to not be dramatically affected by screen contact, but cannot switch onto bigs

Off Ball/Team Defense

  • Needs to be more assertive on takeaway opportunities, has the recognition capability but seemingly hesitates and pulls back most of the time instead of capitalizing
  • Consistently makes digs/stunts/tags from help positions

o Disruptor in these instances

  • Has occasional lapses in terms of making timely help rotations (can focus on ball too much at times and lose track of man) within team defense contexts, but overall very good.
  • Transitions well from help defender to closeouts

Other (Rim Protection, Switchability)

  • Does a great job of staying vertical and maximizing wingspan, can affect shots both coming over from help or defending man’s rim attempts (obviously never going to be super impactful due to lack of size)
  • Most likely will enter the NBA as a positive guard defender (both spots), should be able to switch onto smaller wings with added strength

At first glance, Maxey seems like he should fit in well with the future of the Spurs. A two way prospect who will provide most of his value as a 3 and D small guard with scoring upside sounds intriguing. But isn’t that just a smaller Lonnie Walker IV in terms of role? Maxey does not really fit San Antonio’s presumed draft target archetype as a big time scorer who can get buckets late in the game. Adding another fringe starter/high backup guard would be a misallocation of draft capital in my opinion. I really believe in Maxey as a standalone prospect, but I currently do not believe he is the right fit for San Antonio.

To check out more potential 2020 draft targets, click here.